Forest Mafia Fearlessly Destroying Forest Cover in Himachal Pradesh
Nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, the otherwise peaceful north Indian state, Himachal Pradesh has been dealing with the forest mafia for many years now. Despite strict law implementation, the illegal cutting and smuggling of timber have not stopped. The forest mafia is still active and armed.
Recently, three people, including a forest guard, were injured when unidentified persons who were illegally cutting down the trees opened fire at them in the Dehra sub-division of Kangra district.
Kangra senior superintendent of police (SSP) Vimukt Ranjan said that some people had entered the private land of one Kulwant Singh and started chopping Khair trees in the dark of the night. However, the landlord with his neighbour informed the forest officials about the illegal activities and rushed to the spot.
The team of forest officials was surrounding the group and the group opened fire and fled into Punjab. They took away the landlord’s licensed gun and left their own weapons behind.
Forest guard Sushil Kumar received some minor injuries, while the landlord and his neigbour were admitted to a nearby hospital. The case has been registered and an investigation is going on.
In its official records, the Himalayan state has 66 percent of its area under forest cover. But, it is most vulnerable to climate change and escalating activities of the forest mafia.
In 2009, the state government opened its first Forest Police Station – Van Thana, a specialised police station of Forest Department, to keep the illegal activity of forest mafia operation.
In January 2016, the forest department team recovered illegal wood worth of thousands of rupees in the Kullu district. The accused attacked the patrol team and managed to escape the scene.
In 2017, forest guard Hoshiyar Singh (22) went missing and his body was found by the local police after four days. His bare body was found hanging from a tree in a forest in Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh. The family of the deceased alleged that Singh was killed by forest mafia following which a case of murder was registered.
In September 2018, the forest mafia ran away with illegal timber while the police chased the group in Una district. When the police caught up with the mafia, they attacked the police officers, injuring two of them. Around the same time, the state government provided weapons to the forest officials to keep a check on the illegal forest mafia activities.
Forest mafia attacked a night patrolling team of forest department in February 2019 in Paonta Sahib, Himachal Pradesh. The forest mafia tried to kill the forest officials by hitting them with their car. The deputy ranger and the forest guard driving the jeep sustained serious injuries in the attack.
The forest mafia has strengthened over the past few years and has become more fearless. Although, a peaceful state, the illegal cutting and smuggling of timber in Himachal Pradesh is a concerning issue. The forest mafia is not afraid to use arms and even killing someone. While the trees are being cut down in their prime, the state government is failing to stop the forest mafia.
Amidst the global climate change crisis, when every corner of the globe must be preserved to increase the forest cover, escalating cases of illegal forest mafia activities creating a disturbance in the state needs some strict action to tackle this situation.